Needless to say, social media have made the distribution of digital photos easier than ever before. Anyone can be a publisher. Mailing photos is nearly obsolete.
But there are about as many dangers and challenges surrounding photographs in social media as there are advantages. For one, there’s the issue of intellectual property. If you put a photo on Facebook, who owns it–you, or Facebook? A lot of us have probably not even thought about this and, to be honest, I don’t know what Facebook’s policy is off the top of my head. But I’m pretty sure that when you upload a photo to Facebook, you’re sacrificing some of your legal rights to it.
It’s not necessarily because Facebook has malicious intentions. Is it right for us to say, “I want to upload these photos–I want to gain the benefits of Facebook’s service–but I don’t want them to have any ownership privileges with these photos whatsoever”? Why should Facebook provide this service to you if the company isn’t receiving any benefits? Shouldn’t it at least be able to use your photos to advertise its service to others?
Another major problem comes from the crumbling barriers of privacy. Cameras are ubiquitous today. It doesn’t matter whether you use Facebook or not–Facebook is still compromising your privacy. If you get drunk and do something dumb at a party, anyone with a camera phone can make you famous on Facebook–for better or worse. This relates to a lot of what the authors talk about in Born Digital. Whether or not we want to be a part of the digital world is irrelevant. The rest of the world forces the majority of us to take part. We have no say in the matter. The best thing we can do is use common sense and engage these new media, rather than fighting against the current.
Now, as far as this photo is concerned…I took this while I was in England.
I was lucky. I got to see a little bit of history take place while I was in Oxford last fall. While I was there, the British government was debating whether or not to enact a huge cut to college education funding (ultimately, they did). There was lots of protesting, and you probably saw it on the news back in the States as well. This is a photo of students in Oxford doing a sit-in in the Radcliffe Camera, a major library building. They managed to stay in there for a few days.
And you know what? Even these protesters had to think about the dangers of digital media. A lot of the protesters chose to wear masks, since some of the cops were filming the event. I suppose even the rebellious among us have to take common sense steps protect their identities and privacy.